It may not feel like it as you’re rushing around to do the school run, shopping, vacuuming, washing and cooking. But, apparently modern-day household appliances save women 10 years of housework over a lifetime.
As the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year draws to a close, a new archive has been launched by energy giant nPower on Historypin.com. Called Remember How We Used To… it features images submitted by the public which show how our lives have changed over the years.
nPower commissioned research from Warwick Business School to go with the images, which found that women in the 1950s spent a staggering 50 hours every week doing household chores – that’s 12 more hours than today’s average full-time job.
Nowadays, women spend 18 hours a week on housework. But, when you consider most women have full or part-time jobs on top of that, fitting everything in is still a major struggle.
Warwick Business school has put the differences mainly down to mass electrification, which took place in the 1950s, and the boom of labour-saving appliances which came to homes in the 1960s.
Only three per cent of households had a fridge appliance in the 1950s so women had no choice but to go shopping every day. And, with no supermarkets, fresh food had to be bought from individual shops like the grocers, bakers and butchers. Less than one in ten homes had a washing machine appliance so laundry had to be done manually every day and water for baths had to be heated in a boiler which was powered by the coal fire.
Will Skillman from Warwick Business School said: “Spending in excess of 50 hours a week on housework without the usage of appliances is more than a full-time job, and so it’s not surprising that there was less spare time for a career or hobbies for the 1950s housewife.”
Skillman said women would often get up early to fit an hour’s housework in before making breakfast for the family and walking to the children to school. Then, he said: “It would be back to the house to do the washing by hand before ironing and baking followed without the help of any appliances. The evening would be taken up with cooking the dinner and tidying up afterwards before preparing for the next day.”
He said the affordability and availability of appliances over the last six decades had “significantly reduced the time needed to maintain a home, resulting in an important revolution for women.”
Now women make up almost half the workforce, compared to just under a third in 1952.
“The daily routines for both men and women now are so different to that of our parents and grandparents. Today, 99 per cent of homes have a fridge appliance, 94 per cent a washing machine and 92 per cent of homes are centrally heated. There’s a risk that future generations may never know how life was before these appliances became commonplace, hence the introduction of the energy archive.”